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Recipe Box


Recipe Box

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (as part of the Wisconsin Triennial)

RECIPE BOX is a social practice performance art project about how food knowledge and culture is stored and shared. The impulse for the project came from the emotion-laden, chaotic pile of recipe cards that Spatula&Barcode founders Laurie Beth Clark and Michael Peterson inherited from two mothers and four grandmothers. In the installation, visitors browsed through this recipe cache, contributed recipes of their own, and took away a gift papercraft recipe box that encouraged them to value their food cultures. In the version at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Spatula&Barcode hosted Sunday potluck lunches in the lobby, where participants ate together, showed off their own recipe boxes, and shared stories of how recipes and other foodways are passed on.

RECIPE BOX celebrates the humble containers many of us cram full of index cards, notes, and clippings. Beyond nostalgic reflection, the project celebrates the food knowledges and cultures that are lost, displaced, undervalued, as well as the kinds of food know-how that are in daily use but not yet committed to a share-able form. In engaging participants in the gallery and at the potlucks, Spatula&Barcode encourage folks whose immediate response is "I don't cook" or "I don't have family recipes'' to reflect for a moment on their actual food practices and how we practice some food creativity every day, whether in the kitchen or the drive-thru lane. For Spatula&Barcode an important part of the project is, as always, the conversations and stories people share, however far they stray from the recipe box itself.

All the contributed material, including Clark and Peterson’s family recipe collection, is online at There visitors can continue to share a recipe and its story, a photo of a recipe box (or other storage system) and stories of foods lost and found.

RECIPE BOX was reprised as a workshop for kids by Erin Katz at the Madison Children’s Museum. Her report on that event is here.

Details of menus from the potluck events can be found at these links:

October  —  November  —  January  —  February


"Spatula&Barcode: Recipe Box" in Emergency Index: Annual Documentation of Performance Practice, Volume 9, 2019.

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